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CriticCar seeks to help boost Detroit’s image as an epicenter for art. Holds crowdfunding drive to advance its cause


For the last year or so CriticCar has crisscrossed Detroit stopping at all kinds of events, large and small, allowing many of the under-the-radar performances to be showcased right along those that are more well-known.

574703_268869759871986_1623696056_nLed by journalist Jennifer Conlin, the team has captured citizen reviews on an iPad and brought them to you via YouTube. That’s right. They’re taking the classic “man-on-the-street” review idea and repackaging it for the 21st century social media. You can check out the CriticCar Facebook page to see what they’ve covered or look for them on YouTube.

As a journalist, Conlin travelled the world in search of stories. She returned to the Detroit area three years ago and discovered … in her words … “Detroit is the most exciting place to be right now.” Writing about the city’s cultural scene seemed to her the best way to help get the complete story out about Detroit. She wrote stories for the New York Times on just that. The 36 Hours In Detroit article she wrote two years ago quickly became the most e-mailed article on The New York Times website.

Then she decided the best way to show the real Detroit was through the voice of the people who live here. In 2012 Conlin’s CriticCar idea was awarded a Knight Foundation & National Endowment for the Arts Community Arts Journalism Challenge grant. In less than 12 months it has covered 70 events, interviewed close to 600 participants, collected more than 13,000 Youtube hits.

There is so much more to do.

Conlin and her production partner, Artrain of Ann Arbor, need your help to raise dollars to expand the program and develop an app that will allow them to film, edit and upload CriticCar reviews instantaneously from their camera or iPad. This app will let the group review and promote arts and cultural events as they are happening … no waiting for your review to be seen by the world. The app will be the launching pad for enabling anyone with a smartphone to record and upload reviews.

CriticCar can’t do this alone. They are asking for dollars during a month-long Indiegogo drive that started October 1 and ends at the end of the month. Any funds given beyond the $20,000 goal will be dedicated to putting more CriticCar crews on the road, covering the daily plethora of events happening in and around the city.

CriticCar can introduce museum-goers to experimental theatre and rock-and-roll fans to chamber music. In short, it will help the arts organizations in Detroit maintain and grow their audiences and give show goers a look at the most interesting places to go.

“As someone who loves cities it was so obvious to me how hard Detroiters were working to save their city,” Conlin told the Detroit Unspun a few months ago. “What was so obvious to me as a reporter was the passion among Detroiters for the city’s history, its cultural heritage, its legacy of innovation and now its whole edgy urban vibe that was making it a cool modern city.”’

Not only did she see people who have lived in the city and weren’t going to give up no matter what challenges the city faced, she found a whole group of young artists and entrepreneurs who came to Detroit because of its affordability and endless opportunities. She wanted to get their stories out, but in a new way.

“One thing I did not anticipate was how much people would want to speak about Detroit in general,” she said. Unlike other cities where I suspect audience members might speak more directly about the event they have just seen, here everyone is keen to also support the city and tell people to come visit.”

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